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U.S. Sees Slowdown in Spending on Mental Health

FRIDAY, Feb. 4 (HealthDay News) -- The amount of money spent on psychiatric drugs in the United States continues to grow but at a much slower rate than in previous years, a new federal government study has found.

From 2004 to 2005, spending on psychiatric drugs rose 5.6 percent, compared with an increase of 27.3 percent between 1999 and 2000, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The agency's analysis of health-care costs from 1986 to 2005, the latest year comparable data is available, also found that spending on behavioral health accounts for a decreasing portion of overall health-care costs.

Of the $1.85 trillion spent on all health-care services in the United States in 2005, behavioral health spending accounted for 7.3 percent ($135 billion). During the 20 years analyzed in the study, spending for mental health and substance abuse health care grew more slowly than all other health spending: 4.8 percent a year for substance abuse; 6.9 percent a year for mental health and 7.9 percent a year for all health-care services.

From 2002 to 2005, spending rose 5 percent for substance abuse, 6.4 percent for mental health and 7.3 percent for all health-care services, according to the study, published Feb. 3 in Health Affairs.

Among the other findings:

  • Spending on addiction medications grew from $10 million in 1992 to $141 million in 2005. However, the $141 million represents only 0.6 percent of the $22 billion spent on substance abuse treatment in 2005.
  • In 2005, behavioral health treatment accounted for 4.8 percent of private health insurance spending, compared with 11.5 percent of total Medicaid spending. The agency said that the figures can be used as a baseline for evaluating the effect of the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act and the Affordable Care Act.
  • Unlike overall health spending, the largest portion of behavioral health spending is publicly funded. In 2005, public money paid for 79 percent of spending on substance abuse treatment and 58 percent of mental health services spending, compared with 46 percent of all health spending.

"Behavioral health services are critical to health systems and community strategies that improve health status, and they lower costs for individuals, families, businesses and governments," Pamela S. Hyde, the SAMHSA administrator, said in an agency news release. "The value of behavioral health services is well documented. Studies have shown that every dollar invested in evidence-based treatments yields $2 to $10 in savings in health costs, criminal and juvenile justice costs, educational costs and lost productivity. Yet, too many people don't get needed help for substance abuse or mental health problems, and health-care costs continue to skyrocket."

More information

Mental Health America has more about mental health treatment and recovery.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, news release, Feb. 3, 2011

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